Gary McKnight, Mater Dei High School basketball coach, knew it was going to be tough to get his team motivated for its final Angelus League game against Servite Saturday night. Then LeRon Ellis, the team's catalyst at center, missed the 1 p.m. shoot-around and was benched for the first quarter.
The Monarchs scored six points in the first quarter and struggled to a sluggish 41-39 victory at Rancho Santiago College. Shooting only 37% (13 for 35), Mater Dei (10-0, 24-1) won its 52nd straight league game.
Down 39-37, Servite had possession with 25 seconds left but the Monarchs' Erik Quigley intercepted a pass intended for Friar center Nick Marusich. Ellis hit two free throws with nine seconds left to wrap it up, finishing with a game-high 14 points, though he made only 3 of 11 shots.
The Friars (6-4, 14-11), who finished second in the league, weren't their sharpest either, but Coach Larry Walker wasn't discouraged.
"I think it was a good game," he said. "I think both teams were probably looking to the playoffs.
"We made some mistakes. But we're tuning up for the playoffs. That's the way I looked at it."
McKnight wasn't as impressed. "I thought both teams were extremely flat," he said. "I didn't feel from our part that it was an enthusiastic game."